Journal of Business Ethics

, Volume 151, Issue 1, pp 115–140 | Cite as

Do Parents and Peers Influence Adolescents’ Monetary Intelligence and Consumer Ethics? French and Chinese Adolescents and Behavioral Economics

  • Elodie Gentina
  • Thomas Li-Ping TangEmail author
  • Qinxuan Gu


Adolescents have increasing discretionary income, expenditures, and purchasing power. Inventory shrinkage costs $123.4 billion globally to retail outlets. Adolescents are disproportionately responsible for theft and shoplifting. Both parents and peers significantly influence adolescents’ monetary values, materialism, and dishonesty as consumers. In this study, we develop a theoretical model involving teenagers’ social (parental and peer) attachment and their consumer ethics, treat adolescents’ money attitude in the context of youth materialism as a mediator, and simultaneously examine the direct (Social Attachment → Consumer Ethics) and indirect paths (Social Attachment → Money and Materialism → Consumer Ethics). Results of 1018 adolescents (France = 534 and China = 484; average age = 15.21) illustrate that social attachment discourages unethical beliefs directly, but encourages it indirectly through monetary values. Our multi-group analyses demonstrate a novel paradox: The correlation between parental and peer attachments is smaller in France than in China, but similar across gender. Parents contribute more than peers to social attachment in France, but both carry equal weight in China. There is a negative direct path for the Chinese sample and for girls. Indirectly, parental attachment prevents French teenagers’ unethical beliefs, whereas peer attachment promotes boys’ unethical intention, supporting the notion—bad company corrupts good morals. Across both culture and gender, monetary attitude excites dishonesty consistently for all adolescents. A negative direct path exists for Chinese boys only (the Pygmalion Effect for male little emperors). Overall, social attachment reduces unethical beliefs. Parental and peer supports shape teenagers’ monetary intelligence and ethical or unethical decision making, differently, across culture and gender. We provide theoretical, empirical, and practical implications to ethical parenting, peer attachment, monetary values, and business ethics.


Cross-cultural Love of money Life satisfaction Individualism/collectivism Intrinsic/extrinsic motivation/reward Adolescence Family Material parenting Self-determination Wedding at Cana/miracle The Matthew effect Boomerang/Enron effect 



We would like to acknowledge the financial support provided by the Program for Changjiang Scholars and Innovation Research Team (PCSIRT) in University, Ministry of Education, China (Grant No. IRT 13030) to the third author. We would like to thank Scott J. Vitell for his support and encouragement; two anonymous reviewers for their comments and suggestions; and late Fr. Wiatt Funk, Deacon Pete Semich, Marc Singer, Dan Morrell, Frank Cathey Jr., Joshua D. Pentecost, and Theresa Li-Na Tang for their advice and assistance.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Elodie Gentina
    • 1
  • Thomas Li-Ping Tang
    • 2
    Email author
  • Qinxuan Gu
    • 3
  1. 1.SKEMA Business School, MERCUR Research CenterUniversité de LilleEuralilleFrance
  2. 2.Department of Management, Jennings A. Jones College of BusinessMiddle Tennessee State UniversityMurfreesboroUSA
  3. 3.Antai College of Economics and ManagementShanghai Jiao Tong UniversityShanghaiChina

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